That Doesn’t Happen… Until It Does with @meganslayer #petsinbooks

_Penfield Book 1

I was at breakfast this morning and talking to friends of mine about things only pet owners understand. We all have dogs and cats and shared stories about crazy things the dogs do.

I bring this up because one of my books, actually a couple of them do, but in one particular short story the cat the couple owns shows up when they’re in the midst of getting close. I’ll let you figure out what was going on. The cat hangs out and is pesty when they characters are getting close. The pair decide maybe they should shoo the cat away or go into the other room. I’ve been told by some readers that what happened–the cat being nosy and showing up–doesn’t happen.

That’s what made me laugh and bring it up at breakfast. I’ve never had a dog that wasn’t nosy and didn’t show up at the wrong time. I’ve never had a cat who didn’t believe cleaning themselves should take place when it’s not appropriate.

I’m not alone. We talked about how the dogs will show up when it’s not right or will watch no matter what. I’ve got a particularly clingy dog and she has to be wherever I am. I’ve been followed into the bathroom and protected while showering. Yeah, she’s clingy.

One friend mentioned her dog has to be right with her at all times. Another bathroom visitor. Another friend mentioned how her cat has to sleep on her pillow…right next to her head. Oh, and don’t think about moving the cat because that’s really the cat’s pillow.

I’m guessing some people don’t have pushy, nosy critters like we do. I know of some who keep the animals out of the bedroom at night or don’t let them on the bed. Whatever works. So maybe people don’t have the same problems I do, but that doesn’t mean fiction doesn’t always go along with fact. Grin.

What about you? Do you have pushy pets? Is it just me?

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Schedule, Schmedule… Making Time with @meganslayer #iamwriting #schedule

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I’m trying a few different things this year. I’ve taken some time off from blogging when things got crazy at home. You’d think snow days would mean lots gets accomplished. Not at my house. I end up losing time on writing. I gain it with the family, but my writing gets pushed to the background. Someone once told me I needed to have a set time every day to write. I needed to be disciplined.

I’m a known pantser. I have plans in my notebooks, but I let the characters run when they start talking. Same thing goes with my writing. If I’ve got a set deadline, then I bust my hump to get the story done. If I’ve got a little more time or a loose deadline, then I go when the characters talk. I’m good under pressure, but I hate having pressure all the time.

But having a set period of time during the day to write? Yeah, that doesn’t happen in my house. Not because my family are demanding. They aren’t. But I’m not just a writer. I’m a mom, too. I’m a pet mom. Today was a good example of why setting out specific time to write isn’t my thing.

When I opened the laptop and brought up the document to start adding to my latest story, one of the dogs got sick. Computer down, cleaned mess up. Sit down, start reading through what I’ve written to get caught up and another dog has to go outside. Computer down, dog outside. It’s cold (it was -20 with the windchill at times), so I have to keep an eye on the pup while he’s out. Bring him in, sit down and start working. Dog behind the couch…don’t know what she’s doing, but it can’t be good. Still not sure what she’d found, but again, had to put the laptop down. This was the time I had to myself and planned out for writing. So much for writing. I just can’t get into the headspace to write bondage when a dog is getting sick in the background.

So I’ll wait until later to write. I’ve got a couple hours after everyone goes to bed and maybe I’ll get a few words down then. Maybe not. But you can’t say I’m not trying. Grin. What about you? Does this happen to you? Ever get bogged down with other stuff and don’t get down to whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing? I’d love to know.

But yes, I am writing. Grin.

Book Review ~ Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming ~ #review @MeganSlayer

fATHERDark, painful memories can be put away to be forgotten. Until one day they all flood back in horrible detail.

When television producers approached Alan Cumming to appear on a popular celebrity genealogy show, he hoped to solve the mystery of his maternal grandfather’s disappearance that had long cast a shadow over his family. But this was not the only mystery laid before Alan.

Alan grew up in the grip of a man who held his family hostage, someone who meted out violence with a frightening ease, who waged a silent war with himself that sometimes spilled over onto everyone around him. That man was Alex Cumming, Alan’s father, whom Alan had not seen or spoken to for more than a decade when he reconnected just before filming for Who Do You Think You Are? began. He had a secret he had to share, one that would shock his son to his very core and set into motion a journey that would change Alan’s life forever.

With ribald humor, wit, and incredible insight, Alan seamlessly moves back and forth in time, integrating stories from his childhood in Scotland and his experiences today as the celebrated actor of film, television, and stage. At times suspenseful, at times deeply moving, but always incredibly brave and honest, Not My Father’s Son is a powerful story of embracing the best aspects of the past and triumphantly pushing the darkness aside.

I’d heard about this book in my book club and wanted to read it. The moment I learned about Alan Cumming, I was intrigued.  The man is interesting, funny and writes well.

Where some may not like the back and forth style of this book – he alternates between his past and his current situation – I liked it. I didn’t see any other way to understand what he’d been through besides going back and forth between the past where he’d been abused by his father and unloved by the man, to the guy he’s become – the guy searching for himself.

I liked how his search for his past was chronicled in the book and on the show “Who Do You Think You Are?”. It made Cumming more realistic to me. I laughed at some of his stories, cried at his heartbreak and rooted for him to have the happy ending he deserved. There were moments I couldn’t help but be angry for what he’d gone through and I liked his brother.

If you want a book that’s well written, amusing, gut-wrenching and touching, then this might be the one for you. I recommend it.

Book Review ~ Amy: My Search for Her Killer: Secrets & Suspects in the Unsolved Murder of Amy Mihaljevic #bookreview

amy

“I fell in love with Amy Mihaljevic not long before her body was discovered lying facedown in an Ashland County wheat field. I fell for her the first time I saw that school photo TV stations flashed at the beginning of every newscast in the weeks following her kidnapping in the autumn of 1989―the photo with the side-saddle ponytail . . .”

So begins this strange and compelling memoir in which a young journalist investigates the cold case that has haunted him since childhood.

It’s one of Northeast Ohio’s most frustrating unsolved crimes. Ten-year-old Amy Mihaljevic (Muh-ha-luh-vick) disappeared from the comfortable Cleveland suburb of Bay Village. Thousands of volunteers, police officers, and FBI agents searched for the girl, who was tragically found dead a few months later. Her killer was never found.

Fifteen years later, journalist James Renner picks up the leads. Filled with mysterious riddles, incredible coincidences, and a cast of odd but very real characters, his investigation quickly becomes a riveting journey in search of the truth.

Interesting and sad.

I’m reading this book for my local book club. Would I have picked it up on my own? Not sure. I remember quite clearly when this case happened. I remember my mother freaking out that I – or any of my friends – might be the next kid taken. Sadly, kids are taken all the time. I remember when she was found and how my mother cried. Now that I have a tot, I can identify with my mother’s reaction.

This book though, is like reading a diary. The author isn’t detailing the case, in so much as he’s recalling his reactions to what happened, his path to writing the initial story for the Cleveland paper and eventually the book deal.

In some instances, I got a little spooked. I know the area where she was taken and where she was found. It hit a little too close to home for me. There were moments in the book that the author talks about his life and I recall what I was doing around those times. But the thing that struck me the most about this book is the author certainly got too close to the subject. I know, how can one get close to a deceased person? Let’s just say there were more than a few times when it seemed like he was more interested in getting with the fictionalized version of the girl that he’d created in his mind, than anything else.

I get it. If you were a kid around that time, the whole thing was scary. I learned from the example. Don’t go anywhere without telling anyone and don’t go off with anyone you don’t know. Renner hits that point home often in this book. While it’s a quick read, I had to go in with the mindset that he’s writing more from his own perspective than that of an omniscient observer.  I don’t know how being possibly hit on by one of the girl’s friends had much to do with solving the murder. Honestly, that moment felt like an aside that didn’t need to be in the book. But the murder did affect his life and that of the people who knew the girl. Sadness affects everyone differently and if this was his way to cope, then so be it.

If you like crime stories and are willing to get past the personalized ares in some of the book, then this might be the read for you.

Book Review Thursday ~ Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar #bookreview #books

BOXThe little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

I have to admit I’m a Stephen King junkie. I am. I’m also a bit of a short story junkie, too. When I saw this book at my local library, just sitting there unassumingly on the shelf, I had to sneak a peek. I mean, it’s a King and her name is Gwendy…close to Wendi, right?

So I picked it up. I’m glad I did. This was a quick read and even though it’s short, when I had to put it down to deal with life, I didn’t have to do a bunch of rereading to catch back up.

Gwendy is an interesting character. She has an awesome power within her and within the button box. Will she use it? Will she succumb? Will she get a big head from the power? I liked that Gwendy is relatable. There are things that made her more than she was, but I liked her human-ness. Now I would’ve been more than a little freaked out if some random guy wanted me to sit with him. Even more if he’d have offered me a box. I don’t know how Gwendy did it, but she did.

I liked how she grew through the story, too. The creep factor isn’t as strong in this story, which was nice for me because I wasn’t looking for a freaky story. But might be a turn off for others.

If you want a recent historical story with more than few twists, then this might be the short story you’re looking for. Oh and try a chocolate. I hear the detailing is fantastic.

Random Thought ~ Icons and Music with @MeganSlayer #music #icons #gonetoosoon

Seems like when there’s one passing, two more happen. The rule of three or the triangle effect—however you want to look at it. I’m not a fan of dying and death. I’d rather keep enjoying the music, movies, and books!! But I’m right there with the rest of the fans who buy the music, movies, books, etc. when someone passes away. Unfortunately, death happens. There isn’t a cure for death. Not yet. It just happens.

I was talking with someone older than me the other day. The person said they didn’t understand why Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell were considered icons and legends. To this person, people like Bob Dylan or Barbara Streisand are legends and icons. Are they? Sure they’ve done some awesome stuff. But should Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell be on the same list? I think they should.

This is my opinion and I stand by it. I’m guessing you have your own and I expect you to. Opinions are good.

Dylan and Streisand are legendary people. They’ve made strides in music and film. The songs are memorable. I can’t name a Streisand song, but she’s also not my cuppa. Dylan…yeah, I can name a few of his tunes, but his vocal style isn’t for everyone. That’s okay.

Then why are they counted above Bennington and Cornell?

Metal and rock music had their starts much later than many other popular genres of music. Some cite Black Sabbath and Led Zepplin as innovators in the rock and metal genres. Those weren’t big bands until the late 60s and early 70s. Pop started back in the 50s, so they’re going to have people with more longevity in those genres. But metal and rock are having their day. Sadly, they’re also starting to feel the sting of death.

If you are like me and grew up in the 90s and 00s, then bands like Cornell’s Soundgarden and Bennington’s Linkin Park were mainstays. A lot of my college and high school days were filled with hours listening to their CDs. Numb from the Meteora album holds a special place in my heart. It got me through a lot of heavy stuff. I wasn’t particularly in to Soundgarden, but you can’t miss the grungy, heavy sound of Black Hole Sun.

So why call these people legends? Because they’re dead? One person claimed the way they passed should keep them from the status of legend or icon. If that’s the case, then Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Hendrix, Brian Jones, plus Keith Moon should be kept off the list. The thing is, drugs, drink, depression…it hits us all in one way or another. Members of Alice in Chains, Drowning Pool and many others are gone too soon because of decisions made that maybe weren’t the best. Just because these people took one pill too many or decided to take their life doesn’t mean they weren’t great.

These guys were depressed. They had fame, fortune, and fans, but when you’re popular, it can be lonely. You can be in the middle of a crowded room and feel like you’re the only one there and it’s not good. It can be sad and yeah, depressing. There is pressure. What if the next record doesn’t score with the fans? What if it doesn’t sell? What if it’s deemed unworthy? What if it’s ‘not good enough’?

To some, the pressures of fame are self-inflicted. If you don’t want the stress, then don’t be famous. It’s not that simple. You generally want some fame and cash so you can keep living. But then, if you’re lucky, it gets bigger and harder to control. There is no such thing as kinda famous. There’s famous in a small town, but not kinda—that’s verging into the one-hit wonder status and that’s its own ball of pressure.

Look at Kurt Cobain. The guy wanted to play music and eat. Okay, he wanted to do drugs to numb the pain from his childhood and a stomach condition, too. Then people saw his skills with songs and lyrics…it blew up out of his control. Some didn’t understand the lyrics to the songs and others misrepresented what he meant. He felt like a sellout. For all we know, Bennington and Cornell felt the same way. I’m not saying I know they did or didn’t. I’m just saying you don’t know how these people were feeling, so it’s hard to condemn them.

It’s tough being an artist. You want to please yourself, plus make the art your soul expects you to create. It’s tiring. It’s hard. You don’t just sit down and create a masterpiece in music, art or literature. It takes time. There are many moments of self-doubt. Moments where you want to destroy what you’ve created in favor of starting over. It’s hard to know if the public will like your work and if they don’t, then that’s torture. You’ve worked so long and hard on the art only to have it rejected. You can get lost in the world of creation, trying to make your art perfect. It’s tough.

For me, the 90s and 00s will forever be the decades of NuMetal, experimentation in music and the resurgence of the massive concert experience – think Lollapalooza, Lilithfest and the Warped Tour. This music wasn’t made or listened to in a vacuum. A whole generation of people grew up on the tunes from these bands in these concerts and genres. Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington’s music represents times in our lives. To discredit these folks or to say one is more important than the other is foolish. What’s an icon to you might not be to me, but that doesn’t mean the contributions to art, whichever it is, wasn’t big.

Streisand is a great singer, but her belting out People didn’t make an impact in my life in the massive way Linkin Park’s Meteora album and Hybrid Theory did. “I know I may end up failing, too, but I know you were just like me with someone disappointed in you.” That’s a heavy lyric.

The music stands up. Soundsgarden and Linkin Park sound as fresh today as they did when the albums dropped.

We all have our legends and icons. #Legends and #rockstars never die because their #music always lives on. That’s what makes these guys #legends and #icons to me.

Wednesday Book Review ~ The Films of Tyrone Power by Dennis Belafonte, Alvin H. Marill, Henry King (Introduction)

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Tyrone Power – dashing, ingratiating, urbane – became 20th Century-Fox’s foremost leading man

 

almost from the first days that Darryl F. Zanuck became head of the company. The Tyron

 

e Power image was that of the clean-cut, honest and aspiring young American. In the light comedies in which he starred during the early years of his career he generally “got the girl.” As Power matured, however, he became an actor of force and strength. His performances in Nightmare Alley, Witness for the Prosecution and Abandon Ship met with enthusiastic approval from critics and audiences alike. In the summer of 1958 Tyrone Power was appearing in what proved to be his final role, the character of King Solomon, playing opposite Gina Lollobrigida in Solomon and Sheba. Power collapsed after swordplay with George Sanders. He was rushed to a Madrid hospital, but

 

died within an hour. His death, at forty-four, made headline news around the world. The Films of Tyrone Power represents five years of research by the authors and presents many aspects of the actor’s life. Every film in which he acted is recaptured meticulously, along with casts, credits, reviews and production notes. The warm and detailed biographical portrait of the star, his three wives and his many loves, bring him alive, helped by more than four hundred photographs which illustrate the text. The introduction is by Henry King, who directed many of Tyrone Power’s greatest hits.

 

If you’re a fan of Tyrone Power, then this book is a must. The authors list each of Power’s films, including shorts and war time films. Anything you want to know about the movies, it’s there. There are film stills and promotional photos from many of the films as well. It’s thorough and informative.

I’ve always loved Power and this book puts a new spin on the actor. I never realized how well lit he was during his films–meaning the directors tended to work with the lighting for him that’s up to par, if not better than with his leading ladies. The guy wasn’t just an actor, he was an icon, but he was also seen as a pretty boy.  I never looked at him that way, but I’ve come to since reading this book. I don’t discount Power as an actor, though. He still did his job and it shows in this collection of writings about his films.

If you’ve ever wanted to know a little more about Tyrone Power’s body of work, then this book is for you.